The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen 3C (EBNA-3C) protein is a transcriptional regulator of viral and cellular genes that is essential for EBV-mediated immortalization of B lymphocytes in vitro. EBNA-3C can inhibit transcription through an association with the cellular DNA-binding protein JK, a function shared by EBNA-3A and EBNA-3B. Here, we report a mechanism by which EBNA-3C can activate transcription from the EBV latent membrane protein 1 (LMP-1) promoter in conjunction with EBNA-2. JK DNA-binding sites were not required for this activation, and a mutant EBNA-3C protein unable to bind JK activated transcription as efficiently as wild-type EBNA-3C, indicating that EBNA-3C can regulate transcription through a mechanism that is independent of JK. Furthermore, activation of the LMP-1 promoter is a unique function of EBNA-3C, not shared by EBNA-3A and EBNA-3B. The DNA element through which EBNA-3C activates the LMP-1 promoter includes a Spi-1/Spi-B binding site, previously characterized as an important EBNA-2 response element. Although this element has considerable homology to mouse immunoglobulin light chain promoter sequences to which the mouse homologue of Spi-1 binds with its dimerization partner IRF4, we demonstrate that the IRF4-like binding sites in the LMP-1 promoter do not play a role in EBNA-3C-mediated activation. Both EBNA-2 and EBNA-3C were required for transcription mediated through a 41-bp region of the LMP-1 promoter encompassing the Spi binding site. However, EBNA-3C had no effect on transcription mediated in conjunction with the EBNA- 2 activation domain fused to the GAL4 DNA-binding domain, suggesting that it does not function as an adapter between EBNA-2 and the cellular transcriptional machinery. Like EBNA-2, EBNA-3C bound directly to both Spi-1 and Spi-B in vitro. This interaction was mediated by a region of EBNA-3C encompassing a likely basic leucine zipper (bZIP) domain and the ets domain of Spi-1 or Spi-B, reminiscent of interactions between bZIP and ets domains of other transcription factors that result in their targeting to DNA. There are many examples of regulation of the hematopoietic-specific Spi transcription factors through protein-protein interactions, and a similar regulation by EBNA-3C, in conjunction with EBNA-2, is likely to be an important and unique contribution of EBNA-3C to EBV-mediated immortalization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science